My husband, Rusty, and I often traveled together on mission, but once we started having babies, that had to change. We would take turns going on short-term trips while the other stayed behind and held down the fort. It was what worked at the time, but we would each return from the mission field having seen and experienced joys and pains that the other wasn't privy to. We felt divided and disconnected, and decided that our next mission trip would be as a family of five.
We spoke with Fox, the Director of Short-Term Mission at Brook Hills, and he shared about how the church is growing in Ecuador, and about a key pastor and BH partner, Jairo. With much excitement to see and be a part of what the Lord is doing there, our family quickly identified the other families we would ask to go on mission with us. They were "family" too, being those we have shared life with and been in the trenches with through BH small group for many years.
Funds were collected, time off work was scheduled, passports were obtained, planning sessions were conducted, and bags were packed. Our group of 27 (8 adults and 19 kids!) boarded the jet plane to Guayaquil, Ecuador.
After a long day of travel, we were greeted by Jairo and his family, as well as a host of interpreters that would spend their week being our voices. We loaded onto a bus that took us further on our journey, late into the night. As the bus came to a halt, our bags were unloaded onto an impoverished city street, and we were ushered up the open-air stairs to our small rooms that would soon provide cold showers and much needed rest for the weary. In all honesty, I laid there on my bed asking God to help us survive with no thought at that moment of thriving.
What God showed us about Himself, His people, His creation, ourselves, and what God did in and through us that week, could have only been orchestrated by God Himself. We begged Him for strength for each day and each moment; for opportunities and boldness to share His Good News; and for the privilege to help and encourage the local church, all the while learning so much from them.
Our team divided into groups throughout the morning and wandered the streets knocking on doors, meeting people and asking if they would allow us to share why we had come to visit them and their city. We took turns, adults and kids alike, sharing our stories of how God pursued us to know Him, as well as sharing God's Story from Creation to Christ with anyone who would listen. We prayed with strangers, some of who believed and surrendered to the Lord for the first time. We invited them to join us in the afternoons for Rock the Block.
Students from the local school were dismissed each day for lunch and we often had great conversations with them. A beloved translator suggested that we ask the principal if she would allow us to formally speak to her students. We walked through the gate and approached the principal with our request while Luis translated. She was very hesitant and wanted to know exactly what we would share. We boldly told her our purpose, but because of legal implications, she was overwhelmed and unsure. The other teachers began pleading with her to allow us in. I was able to relate with her as a fellow school administrator and acknowledge the good things I had observed in her students and share of the known reputation she has in the city. The Lord softened her heart and she agreed for us to share the following morning! We arrived at 7:30 a.m. to gates swung wide open and teachers welcoming us into their classrooms. God allowed us to share and to see our children courageously share testimonies, proclaim the gospel, and even to pray for the students and teachers. God ordained for our little team from Alabama to proclaim His name to over 650 students that morning in Ecuador!
The smiles on our kids’ faces had never been bigger than on that trip. Serving as a family and with our friends greatly impacted all of us. In fact, one of the kids on our team prayed to receive Christ while in Ecuador, asked for forgiveness of his sins, and apologized to his parents for hurtful things he had done! In His kindness, the Lord used the testimony and teaching of his sister during Rock the Block to save him.
Gather your people and GO make disciples of all nations!
April Palmer and her husband, Rusty, have three daughters, Millie (15), Mattie (13), and Abbie (10). They have been members of Brook Hills since 2004 and lead a small group on Sunday mornings. Rusty also serves as an elder.